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Dr. Z
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4418
Experience:  Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
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My 7yo son is having extreme difficulty going to school every

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My 7yo son is having extreme difficulty going to school every morning. There hasn't really been a single day that he hasn't thrown a tantrum while getting ready. In fact, once he hits a particular point, while traveling to school, he immediately panics & cries & complains that his stomach feels sore & has to go to the bathroom. He typically has a "nervous stomach", but the extreme anxiety in the morning exacerbates it. My husband has to literally drag him, kicking and scrraming to class. Apparently he gets teased and the kids all run away from him during recess time. He claims that everyone in his class hates him. However when my husband drops him off at school, many of the children are waiving at him, even through his tantrum. When I pick him up from school, majority of the time, he says that he's had a good day. To make things worse, he has developed these OCD rituals, in the past, that seem to be getting more and more heightened as each day passes. We've already spoke to his teacher, but things still keep getting worse. My husband and I don't want to make our son into a quitter, but when do you know when enough is enough?? There is always an option of me homeschooling him, but would taking him out now train him to "bail out" when life gets tough??? Please help us. We really don't know what to do & this situation is negatively affecting all of us. Thank you for your time.
Submitted: 11 months ago.
Category: Mental Health
Expert:  Dr. Z replied 11 months ago.

DoctorZ :

Hello I believe I can help you with your concern about your son today

DoctorZ :

I am sorry that your son has been exhibiting these symptoms, I can imagine how distressing it is for him and for you as parents

DoctorZ :

When his stomach hurts, it is most likely caused by anxiety because when your son is very anxious the blood flows from his internal core to his extremities (this caused by the fight or flight response), so there is less blood to aid in the digestive process and this causes stomach aches and cramps.

DoctorZ :

So definitely your son is having an extreme anxiety/panic attack about going to school. While he may have gotten teased at one point or multiple points during his time at school, it seems like he will always think it is going to happen and he over-exaggerates it in his mind that causes this anticipatory anxiety which causes his panic attacks and tantrums.

DoctorZ :

His OCD symptoms are a maladaptive way of trying to cope with his anxiety because he has not mastered appropriate coping skills due to his young age.

DoctorZ :

I understand your concern for your son, but before you feel like "enough is enough" and thinking about homeschooling, have you considered having your son be evaluated by a child therapist/psychologist.

DoctorZ :

A child therapist/psychologist can teach your son the appropriate coping mechanisms to help manage his anxiety better which will help him in the future for any other stressful period in his life.

Customer: If we were to pull him out now, what would the possible negative outcomes be??
DoctorZ :

Well there would be positives and negatives if you pulled him out now. The negatives would be that he would not have learned how to properly cope during an anxiety provoking situation, so when he becomes stressed or agitated again it could trigger a similar response like this. Another negative would be a loss of social interactions, but that can be easily made up with play dates, church functions, etc...A positive of this would be an immediate relief for your son and his tantrums and panic attacks will cease until the next stressful situation comes up

Customer: Also, what do you suggest we do in the meantime?? I cannot see how we can do this everyday. It's truly agonizing. How would you go about getting him to paradigm shift, so that can go willingly??
Customer: If we keep him in school and let him "tough it out", are we risking any kind of long term detrimental affects??
DoctorZ :

Well there are a few things that you can do to help him learn to manage his anxiety. One is by role-playing with him and re-enacting anxiety provoking situations and teaching him ways to cope with it by being assertive or learning to walk away. Another option is help each your son positive self-talk. One thing that is provoking his anxiety are negative self-beliefs, so this technique a positive belief record can help him turn those negative self beliefs into positive self beliefs.

DoctorZ :

Also this technique is called the What if that can help your son focus more on the positives than the negatives for certain future situations which can help transform your son's thought process, which will lessen his anxiety

DoctorZ :

And this last technique can help your son to decastrophise a situation by focusing on the worse case scenario and providing him alternative evidence to focus on that is more positive and plausible for the situation

DoctorZ :

Now if you keep him in school to "tough it out" then it is possible that he may overcome this by himself, but with his severe anxiety I think he will continue to escalate his behavior and this will have an impact on him socially and educationally that could last for awhile. If you choose to see a therapist while he goes to school or work on these techniques with him, then he has a great chance of adapting and learning good coping mechanisms to help with his anxiety where he can be a more successful student in school, but therapy and these techniques take time.

DoctorZ :

If you choose to go the medical route and get prescribed medication for your son, then the results will be more immediate then with therapy or the techniques, but medication only helps to lessen the symptoms and does not help with the root cause only therapy and these techniques can

Customer: Ok thank you. So, would if be safe to say that you would recommend him to see a therapist ASAP, & work on the given techniques with him in the meantime?? Also, should I expect to see a growing amount of anxiety and tantrums etc. throughout this time??
Customer: Is this kind of behavior normal for a child his age?? Do children often go through these types of situations??
DoctorZ :

I do think his anxiety is very severe to cause such panic attacks, so seeing a child therapist/psychologist would be best for him. The techniques will help to lessen the anxiety for him as will therapy, so his anxiety should not escalate a lot during this time. It may escalate a little, but then the techniques and therapy will kick in soon and his behavior will begin to lessen and decline gradually

DoctorZ :

Children his age often go through anxiety, but not this severe. This is abnormal, which is why I fell like a therapist can give your son more intensive treatment to help him. But because he is so young, there is a high success rate for treatment regarding this anxiety

Customer: What can this lead to in adulthood?? Mental illness??
Customer: Is there a reason why he cannot cope like most children do at his age?? Is there something as parents that we did not do for him??
DoctorZ :

There is not determination that he will have a mental illness in the future because of this anxiety, but he may have increased levels of anxiety as an adult. But with early treatment and learning of proper coping mechanisms as a child, they will become more of a habit for him to help him with future stressful situations, so he should be well adjusted as an adult, as I said this treatment has a high success rate because of his young age.

DoctorZ :

Most likely you did not do anything wrong as a parent, it is probably his temperament and that he was prone to extreme anxiety from stressful situations. By going to therapy and learning good coping mechanisms it will negate this anxiety where he will become well functioning

DoctorZ :

So you should not blame yourself at all, this level of anxiety is something that was not your fault at all

Customer: ok. Thank you so much for your time. I will rate and exit.
DoctorZ :

Anytime, I am always happy to help

DoctorZ :

If you have any other questions or concerns please feel free to contact me at anytime

DoctorZ :

I want to wish you and your son the best of luck with everything, and I hope I provided you with excellent service today

Customer: Thank you. You were excellent.
Dr. Z, Psychologist
Category: Mental Health
Satisfied Customers: 4418
Experience: Psy.D. in Clinical Forensic Psychology with a background in treating severe mental illnesses.
Dr. Z and 2 other Mental Health Specialists are ready to help you

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